Justice

“After the Uprising”: Could Friends Shed Light on Danyé Jones's Final Hours?

As the weeks turned into months after Danyé Jones’s suspicious 2018 death, his family continued to wait for answers from the St. Louis County Police in the form of a final report. While the County’s medical examiner had already concluded that Danyé’s death was a sucide, detectives appeared to be in no hurry to finish the paperwork as summer 2019 arrived.

For Danyé’s family, this gap meant crucial evidence they were seeking for use in their own investigation was still kept out of reach, like the bed sheet used as the ligature in his death. Danyé’s mother Melissa McKinnies and the rest of his family, hoping to prove out their belief that he was murdered, had pinned their hopes on an independent examination and test of the evidence, but until the police report was finalized, there was little they could do but wait.

The long delay is somewhat unsurprising given the lack of communication and outreach from the police to Danyé’s family seeking leads. From the first moments of the investigation, when lead detective Timothy Anderer allegedly gave the family a false business card, and continuing through a lack of followup conversations and an apparent reluctance to speak to Danyé’s family with their attorney present during their only return visit, it appeared that the police were not fully committed to investigating all the possibilities surrounding Danyé’s death. Could it be that Detective Anderer was simply not up to par with the job? His history of commendations and accolades would seem to speak to the usual quality of his work. As an officer he was awarded a Chief’s Commendation in 2011 and the following year earned an award for “a lifesaving measure where valor circumstances do not exist.” This perhaps was why he had been promoted to detective by the County Police Department in 2015, despite having recently been involved in a violent incident with Black protestors that would result in an excessive force lawsuit.

Attempts by podcast investigators in May 2019 to contact Anderer and follow up on the status of the final report with the police proved fruitless. While preventing Detective Anderer and any other officer who worked Danyé’s case from speaking directly with journalists,the St. Louis County Police spokesperson claimed that the relationship between the police and the community had improved in the years since the Ferguson uprisings. Many Black citizens disagree, including Danyé’s younger brother, Javon, who says he was harassed by the police mere weeks after Danyé’s death.

According to Javon, as he returned to his car from picking up a pizza in late 2018, he found it surrounded by uniformed St. Louis County police. They claimed they were simply investigating a carjacking, but the police in question also appeared to know a lot about Javon’s private life. They inquired about his son, and seemed to mock his family’s efforts when they asked if he “figure[d] out who killed [his] brother” Danyé. Javon also alleges that they may have attempted to plant a knife on him.

For Javon, it was personal, but also part of a larger pattern of alleged enmity between the St. Louis County police and the people they are sworn to serve. With little help on the horizon from the officials, Danyé’s family continued their own investigation, this time focusing on Danyé’s plans for what would be the last day of his life.

On the night of his death, Danyé had packed an overnight bag, and appeared excited about going. No one asked who he was meeting, but Melissa presumes he was going to meet a young woman he was interested in. There were two women in his life who fit that description: Loretha and Dasha.

Loretha was Danyé’s ex-girlfriend, who he had reconnected with via text just two days before he died. He wrote her poems, and at one point even considered proposing, but the couple remained on-again, off-again. She declined an invitation to speak on the record, but in an email, she appeared to have negative feelings about their relationship, despite their apparently having recently made plans to meet for dinner. However, she neither confirmed nor denied whether she had met or tried to meet with Danyé the night of his death.

That leaves Dasha, a co-founder of the Lost Voices activist group discussed in episode 2 of the podcast ‘After the Uprising,’ and a former girlfriend of Danyé’s with whom he had maintained a friendship. His mother Melissa and sister Melisha were not fans of their relationship. According to them, things went sour in Danyé’s life when he started dating her a few years before he died. In the last week of his life, Danyé was reluctant to leave the house, unless it was to show one of the properties he was trying to sell-- or hang out with Dasha.

As one of the few people who could get Danyé to leave the house in the days leading to his death, it’s plausible that she was the person he was so excited to see that tragic night. Further, Melisha believes that Dasha knew the password to Danyé’s phone, and getting her to provide that would reveal invaluable information about his state of mind.

After losing her own father to police violence, and witnessing Michael Brown, Jr.’s body left on the ground for hours by Ferguson police, Dasha committed herself to activism, which she claims has made her a target for retaliation. She served a few months in jail for supposed arson, though she was released after her detention without trial. She was also threatened with charges for allegedly stealing an interloper’s phone in a contentious Lost Voices meeting. And, before she could reveal to podcast investigators what she knew about Danyé and the events surrounding his death, she was arrested once more on a probation violation.

Did she have plans with Danyé on that last night? Could she shed light on his mental state? Did she really have Danyé’s phone passcode, and would she still remember it so many months later? With one of their few leads now sitting in jail, Danyé Jones’s family would have to wait a little longer for answers.

The County police report would eventually be approved for release in July 2019, nine months after Danyé had been found hanging from a tree. Later that same year, Detective Timothy Anderer would be awarded a second Chief’s Commendation.

For more insight into the St. Louis County Police investigation, or lack thereof, and more insight into the women in Danyé Jones’s short life, check out episode five of ‘After the Uprising,’ and make sure to follow ‘After the Uprising’ on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for further updates and insights on Danyé’s story.

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